Sunday, October 18, 2009

To Share ... or Not .

We were going to pay a quick visit to my sister and her daughters the other day. I stopped at a gas station on the way and ran in to buy two cheap packs of some type of fruity tooty gum for my Mom to give her granddaughters as a gift.
I sometimes think the girls are a little distant around my aging Mom and I'm not beyond bribery to try and bridge that gap.
I hopped back in the car with the two bright pink and yellow packages and handed them to my Mom, explaining that she could give them as a gift to the girls.
"That's exactly what I wanted," she said with a pout. Somehow she had transformed from 87 to 2 during my three minutes in the store.
"This is fruity gum, Mom. You don't even chew gum," I said.
"Yes I do." She now grew a little huffy. I couldn't hold back a laugh. She was pouting like a toddler and even trying to shed a few tears. My laughing really set her off.
"What? This is exactly what I wanted..." She was already holding the packs, but she scooped them in closer and pulled them possessively to her chest. There was NO way she was handing them off to anyone.
The hilarious interaction went on for a good few minutes. Her logic too silly to recall accurately. To end the stand off, I offered to buy her a pack of gum on the way home, which she mistook as right that minute.
"Well..." she uttered just one word in absolute defiance, now sounding more like a sassy teenager.
I pulled out, letting her, for the moment, think she could keep the gum she already had. It's one of those times Alzheimer's plays in your favor. By the time I hit the main road, all would likely be forgotten. My Mom is usually generous to a fault. When we were young everything went to her daughters first. That very night at dinner she offered me a bite of her main course and dessert. Fairly disgusting, but more in line with her normally generous heart than the present moment where a mutiny was about to erupt over bubble gum.

12-year-old Meghan ran out to the drive to greet us. I pried one pack free from her fingers and said "look what your Grandma got you!" Meghan grabbed the gum and gave my Mom a thank you hug. (See, these little dollar investments can really payoff!) Grandma was so thrilled with the smile and hug that she barely noticed the switcheroo when the gum transferred from her hand to Meghan's. She also still had the remaining pack to clutch.
As we entered the house, I saw my Mom tighten her grip on the gift. I warned 8-year-old Emily that Grandma may have a little difficulty handing over the surprise. My sister said the girls could share one pack and Mom could keep the other, but I insisted she needed to learn, or re-learn how to share.
"What, so she can remember it for a few minutes?" my sister asked. Nicely, not snotty. She's a mom herself and one of many that caution me constantly to pick my battles. (I also won't give in and let her wear white socks with black shoes. Not even in the house. Someday, from heaven, she'll thank me for that.)
To me, sharing was a war worth waging, but I proceeded with tact. Turning the gift giving into a game would surely work.
"Mom, didn't you get Emily something really special today??? I bet she's dying to see it."
My Mom's face lit up. She loves being the center of attention these days. This gave her a stage to unveil the surprise. She pulled her hand up from the table, hiding the packet under her palm and said to Emily, "Do you wonder what I have here?" She bought into the game one-thousand percent. "Do you think this surprise might be for you?" My Mom's face grew more and more animated and Emily giggled her head off in anticipation. We were all having a riot over the gum hand off. Until... the lead in to the silly surprise, the suspense, took so long to build that my Mom forgot who the recipient was. When she finally revealed the brightly colored pack of gum she proclaimed, "look what I got!"
We all burst into a whole new round of hysterics, including my Mom who loves a good time. "No Mom, that was supposed to be for Emily."
Emily now laughed as if she was being tickled to death. Meghan howled from the sidelines. Their Grandma was being super silly and they loved it. Ultimately, my Mom returned to being the amazing woman we all know and love as she finally, generously handed over the simple little gift to her granddaughter with pride. "Here, this is for you."
Emily grinned back at her Grandma with an ear to ear smile and reciprocated with a big hug.

I probably should be a little ashamed at admitting openly that I spent a dollar to generate a couple of genuine hugs. But when your heart is in the right place, it always works out. Not giving in to the toddler tantrum and coaching my Mom to overcome the dementia induced personality change, led to an amazing surprise of its own. The laughter we shared that day created a true bonding moment, a memory that will likely last a lifetime.

Sitting in the kitchen sharing a huge laugh with Grandma ... that's priceless.

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